Humans eat too much of nearly everything – too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, too much cholesterol. Such abundance has helped lay the foundation for coronary diseases, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, adult-onset diabetes, obesity, and several other kinds of cancer.
Diseases from food are real. Surprisingly, pesticides and preservatives aren’t the worst offenders. Here are some of the more serious culprits:
- Sugar: the National Research Council reports that refined sugars and sweeteners account for up to 20 percent of many people’s daily calories. Devoid of fiber and nutrients, refined sugars are empty, or naked, calories. But because of their caloric density, they are well suited to promote obesity.
- Refined Foods: people used to think refinement was good because it got rid of useless roughage. Now we are learning how necessary fiber is in protecting us from certain cancers, stabilizing blood sugar, controlling weight, and preventing trointestinal problems such as gallstones, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and constipation.
- Salt: most westerners consume 10 to 20 grams (two to four teaspoons) of salt a day. This is many times more than is actually needed and contributes prominently to high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney disease.
- Fat: most people do not realize that they are consuming an average of 37 percent of their daily calories as fat. This is much more than the body can properly handle. As a result, blood vessels plug up, impotence sets in, and hearts and brain suffer. A high-fat diet also contributes to overweight, adult diabetes, and certain cancers.
- Protein: a diet heavy in meat and animal products provides more protein, fat and cholesterol than the body can use. Many eat two or three times more protein than is recommended. Scientists now recognize that a diet containing less protein and much less fat and cholesterol is essential for improved health and longevity.
- Beverages: Some people are very unwilling to drink water. Instead, they average several servings of soda pop, beer, coffee, tea, and sweet (soft) drinks every day. Because most of these drinks are loaded with calories from sugar and alcohol, they can play havoc with blood sugar levels and sabotage weight-control efforts. Caffeine, phosphates, and other chemicals found in beverages pose additional health risks.
- Snacks: engineered taste sensations are taking the place of real food. Schools, day-care centres, even hospitals require snacks to be available. The coffee break remains standard at work, and snacks reign supreme after school and at home. Well-planned family meals are now the exception. Snacks attacks disrupt digestion, overburden the stomach, and are a frequent cause of bloating and indigestion.
The way out of these is to think fruits (there are hundreds of them) go for vegetables, potatoes, and yam. Include legumes – all kinds of beans, lentils, chickpeas – in scores of shapes, colours and flavours. And don’t forget the grains.